Researchers perpetually search for ways to break down human interactions into components, but even when their results are obvious, they can be interesting. In a recent paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, researchers in Aberdeen, Scotland showed that people find other people who smile and look directly at them both more likable and more sexually attractive. Try the same experiment on the woman pictured right (from newscientist.com). Despite the subtlety of the variation – the aversion of the woman’s gaze – the photo on the left really does make her seem more likable.
In another goofy experiment, McGill University researchers had office workers spend 5 minutes every morning playing a computer game in which they had to find a photo of a smiling person amongst a group of 15 frowny faces. Playing this game reduced the hormone cortisol, which causes symptoms related to stress, by 17%. Why? There’s some flummery in the New Scientist article, but it seems the researchers don’t actually know.